County, Forest Service talk recreation

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The Forest Service has offered several alternatives for managing winter recreation in the area, which will be presented in mid-March to allow for additional public comments.

Kim Vogel, district ranger for Routt National Forest, and Mary Sanderson, recreation planner for Medicine Bow and Routt national forests, told Routt County commissioners and other county officials of that progress at a Tuesday meeting.

During that meeting, the Forest Service officials also asked that a county representative help summarize how winter recreation affects the county, through impacts such as increased road use, trespassing and parking on county roads.

County commissioners said that those potential impacts, which could require more work by the sheriff's department and the Road and Bridge Department, were concerning to them.

The discussion came after forest officials received 675 responses to the almost 2,700 letters seeking pubic input that they mailed earlier this year.

In the scoping letter, the Forest Service, in conjunction with Colorado State Parks and Routt County, outlined a proposed winter recreation management plan that included separating motorized and nonmotorized uses, and also touched on parking, camping and access issues for its update. The plan focused on Rabbit Ears Pass, Buffalo Pass and North Routt County, where officials say winter recreation is growing.

Sanderson told county officials that responses show many residents and users are educated and interested in the issue.

"There sure is very emotional attachment to everything that's going on out there, and winter recreation is a very big issue," Sanderson said.

After the public meetings in March, a Forest Service team will perform a detailed analysis on options for management, with the final decision being made by the Forest Service, Sanderson said.

Forest Service officials and county officials discussed Tuesday how the two groups could be of service to each other, as the county works to update the winter recreation section of its Upper Elk River Valley Community Plan.

Routt County Planner Chad Phillips said the cooperative study is beneficial to the Forest Service, the county and state parks, as it allows the entities to share public comments through meetings such as those held in January across the county.

Forest officials also said that while user fees likely would be required to carry out final plans, there is a chance a final recommendation may not require fees.

However, they said, discussions about fees would not be a part of the current process, as fees would be implemented only to carry out the chosen plan.

The ultimate goal, Sanderson said, is to provide forest users with quality experiences, something that is not happening, according to e-mails, letters, phone calls and faxes the Forest Service has received.

-- To reach Susan Bacon, call 871-4203

or e-mail sbacon@steamboatpilot.com

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